I was 18 the night I stopped praying for my brothers. Sean is severely autistic. Niall has Down Syndrome.
I'd tired of hurling nightly prayers for divine healing, or variations on that theme, at my bedroom ceiling: "God, the Bible says you care about healing. Please heal Sean and Niall." "God, what about our family made you think we could handle two handicapped sons?" "Is it something we've done? Not fair!" "Lord, why am I normal and Sean and Niall not? Is there something I'm supposed to do or be to make up for them?" "God, why their handicaps? Why?"
My words always seemed to bounce off the ceiling and fall flat—words that couldn't move an implacable God. God's non-answer to my "Why?" pierced me deeper than the in-my-face physical nature of my brothers' handicaps: Niall cannot feed, clean, or clothe himself. He will never talk, read, or write. Sean fares little better.
Nails Have Names
Nails—painful, difficult situations that hurt desperately and pin us down—can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Sean and Niall were my nails—sharp and pointed, driving home one reality: God was God and who was I to expect that he'd answer my prayers the way I needed?
Nails hurt. I'd rather pry them out, bandage the holes, and limp far away from the affront Sean and Niall represent to my understanding of God (or rather who I think God is and what his creation should be: beautiful, in order, whole).1